Control Entire Game With Balanced Effort
Coming into the weekend, it felt a little like the offense from the Gophers may be starting to come around. And with OSU coming in with a poor defensive record (especially PK-wise), it seemed like tonight could be a jump starter. That rang true as the Buckeyes looked rusty after not playing the weekend before; and the Gophers took advantage to the tune of a 4 – 2 win with a full team effort.
Outshooting OSU 17 – 6 in the period, the Gophers were pretty methodical and while they could have had another goal or two, it was good to see Justin Kloos get back on the score sheet. Kloos helped start the scoring, while on the power play. He got the puck to the right of OSU goalie Christian Frey and drew a defender close to him while waiting for a passing lane to open. He got his look, and fired a cross-ice pass to Leon Bristedt, who rifled it past Frey for his 4th of the season and second game in a row with a tally.
“Connor’s out, unfortunately” said Bristedt after the game. “Someone’s gotta fill in his spot” in reference to the power play time he’ll now get. “I’m getting used to the game over here, more confident” he said when questioned about how he’s feeling, in what was probably his best game so far as a Gopher.
After a really nice Adam Wilcox save on Buckeye leading scorer Anthony Greco – Kloos double the lead for Goldy. Frey stopped a point shot from Ryan Collins, but couldn’t control the rebound, which bounced right to a streaking Kloos. He darted through two OSU defenders and popped it into an open net for his first goal since January 9th. “Justin needed to score a goal” said coach Lucia after the game. “It’s been awhile.”
Kloos was just as relieved.
“The most frustrating part about, honestly, the last two months – is a lot of those games I missed ‘gimmies’ and our team ended up losing by one or tying” he said, postgame. “It was good to help the team win.”
As expected, OSU came out with their push in the 2nd period. They certainly had a more concerted physical effort in the period, and that ended up costing them momentum, and probably the game.
After a nice bounce at the Gopher blue line which allowed a flying Anthony Greco to halve the Gopher lead, the Buckeyes got too physical and headed, again to the box. Travis Boyd made quick work, just ten seconds into the opportunity, by popping a wrist shot past Frey in which Frey wasn’t really even screened.
Getting rough with the Gophers isn’t a bad strategy, but when you’re PK is as bad as it is for the Buckeyes, it wasn’t a smart game plan for them. Vinni Lettieri couldn’t keep the PP percentage on the night over 50% but he did tip Christian Isackson’s blast from just inside the blue line, moments after the PP expired, as the Gophers built a 4 – 1 lead after the second period ended.
“We gotta get better at special teams” lamented Buckeye coach Steve Rohlik after the game.
OSU did get on the board in the 3rd period, but by a wide margin this was a very quiet period that the Gophers had full control the entire time and the result never seemed an issue.
Tomorrow will be a different story with the Buckeyes and the Gophers know it. “They have had so many guys that have been injured recently” said Lucia. “Now you see their team is much better as they are getting to full strength.” They know it’s ‘step one, down’ but it’s a must-sweep weekend. The Gophers add 3 points to their Big Ten total and will go for three more on Saturday & aim for their first sweep since beating Notre Dame twice before Thanksgiving. The rematch is tomorrow at 7PM, again televised on the BTN.
GOLDEN NUGGETS: The three stars of the game were (3) Taylor Cammarata, (2) Vinni Lettieri and (1) Justin Kloos…more than one mentioned how important it was for the team to fill Connor Reilly’s role, especially on the power play…attendance was 9,969 which seemed fairly accurate…look for a larger role for Bristedt as the season winds down; Lucia mentioned that Leon played a PK role for Team Sweden at the World Juniors and now that he’s getting more comfortable here he would like to feature him more on the power play.